Ottawa puts C$300 million into rail corridor upgrades

Thu Jul 16, 2009 2:34pm EDT
 
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By John McCrank

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canada will spend C$300 million ($267.8 million) to improve performance on a high-traffic stretch of railway between Toronto and Montreal, government and industry officials said on Thursday.

The funding will be used to increase capacity and trim delays by eliminating bottlenecks and reducing conflicts between Via Rail passenger traffic and Canadian National Railway Co freight trains.

About 4.6 million passengers rode VIA's trains last year, and the government-owned corporation expects that number to rise by 40 percent over the next five years due to track and train improvements, Donald Wright, chairman of VIA, told reporters.

"We would expect definitely a significant increase in passengers because of the reliability of our lines and faster speeds, and more creature comforts in terms of the things that we're changing inside of the cars," he said.

Projects at eight locations along the 539-kilometer (335-mile) line include construction of additional track to allow Via and CN trains to pass or overtake each other safely and quickly. Extensions to siding and yard tracks will allow CN trains to exit and clear the main line when necessary.

Wright said the changes would allow for the addition of two round-trip trains on its Toronto to Montreal and Toronto to Ottawa lines and would cut travel time between Toronto and Montreal by about half an hour.

"It will precisely reposition the passenger train as the modern answer to the highway gridlock and airport winglock."

The two-year project will begin within weeks.   Continued...

 
<p>A Via Rail train waits to leave the station at Union Station in Toronto July 16, 2009. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>